After a thoroughly enjoyable week or so of simply walking the streets of Siracusa, we decided it was time to venture out.
While we had been to Noto previously, we thought it was worth another visit to the UNESCO listed town. Our previous visit was in 2008 in the extreme July heat.
Noto is a baroque town rebuilt after the 1693 eruption of Mt Etna. Its honey-colored stone buildings are quite a sight.
The train seemed the logical way to go as we are trying to avoid driving on this trip. I’ve driven in Sicily before, including to Noto, and it was not a relaxing experience for either myself or my favourite person! Noto is less than 40 kms from Siracus and the journey time is only 30 minutes by train. It was only after boarding that I found a valuable piece of travel advice that locals don’t catch the train to Noto . The train stops at the bottom of the town, a good ten plus minute walk up the hill to the town centre. That said, the train ride was enjoyable and the scenery worth taking in.
After our walk up the hill, we headed straight for the famous Cafe Sicilia for a late breakfast. We decided to sit outside meaning that we had to pay the inevitable coperto (cover charge). It was worth it, as the waiter was able to direct us to their specialty, almond soup served in a coffee mug. It was warm, sweet and quite rich – an ideal winter drink. The pastries were also quite spectacular. Sure it was more expensive than standing at the bar but it was an opportunity to relax and take in the streetscape which is very impressive. Last time it had been so hot that we’d mainly focussed on finding the shade and our stop at this famous cafe had been for Gelati.
After our late breakfast we took a pleasant stroll down the main street. Noto is famous for its numerous churches but on this occasion we only stepped into one, preferring a visit to one of the palaces – Palazzo Nicolaci. Its street presence is quite imposing. The palace balconies were carefully designed to suit the women’s dresses of the time but as we weren’t in period costume, the balconies provide panoramic views of Noto and beyond.
The tour books set out walks around the city which we largely ignored as a walk down the main street with some minor diversions seems to do this very pretty town justice. A walk between the two piazzas would take just a few minutes if it was not for the beauty of the buildings.
We enjoyed our half day trip to Noto, which ended with us taking the locals advice and catching the bus back to Siracusa. The bus of course leaves from the main street!
Transport travel tip – Train travel in Sicily often seems the easiest option but may not actually be so. Buses seem to be the locals preferred choice as they usually drop you in the centre of town whereas trains don’t eg Noto and Taormina. One of the challenges with buses is that the timetables are often only in Italian, whereas the train ticket system has language options including what has now become for us, the hilarious opening line of the automated system which warns customers to “Beware of pickpockets”.